About

The Great Energy Challenge blog focuses on the future of fuel and power with news and insights from journalists and insiders who are deeply engaged in the world’s shared energy and climate challenges.

We are aiming to inspire a diverse conversation on the future of energy with a range of perspectives. We believe this is the most effective way to encourage solutions to the problems of shrinking energy resources and climate instability.

The bloggers on this site are solely responsible for the ideas and opinions in their posts.

The Great Energy Challenge blog is produced and edited by National Geographic. It is part of The Great Energy Challenge, an important National Geographic initiative designed to help all of us better understand the breadth and depth of our current energy situation.

Contact

E-mail:
askngs@nationalgeographic.com

Postal address:
The Great Energy Challenge
National Geographic Digital Media
1145 17th St. NW
Washington, DC 20036

Phone:
800-647-5463

Comments

  1. David C Ashley
    SYRACUSE
    February 24, 9:44 pm

    OUR ENERGY FUTURE AND GLOBAL WARMING. WHAT WE MUST DO

    U.S. Energy Information Administration

    Our current energy use projections need to be changed. By using a program like what I call Apenny, we need to change our 2040 energy use by adding more conservation by 22%, reduce our natural gas use to 20%, increase our renewable energy use to 18% and reduce our other carbon based fuel from 62% down to 32%.

    We should all realize that it’s not the government that is responsible for global warming; it’s you and I. And our representatives and senators, just like our clergy, don’t like to tell us that we’re the bad guys. We use five times as much carbon as the rest of the world average. And, as you can see from the energy use chart above that the U.S. Energy Information Administration promulgates, increasing sustainable energy generation from 8% now to only 10% in 2040 is a recipe for carbon dioxide going far above the 500 ppm predicted maximum that will surely result in catastrophic global warming and species extinction.

    We need a totally different approach.

    We need to do the same approach that we discovered is necessary in order to design zero net energy buildings. It’s pretty simple. First you take an otherwise code compliant new building design or retrofit and then you apply a combination of passive savings, like south facing windows with overhangs to block summer sun, and then you apply maximum insulation and mechanical savings to bring the total energy used down to one quarter of a code compliant building. Then you add renewable energy generation and solar, wind or biofuels to get to zero but not before.

    But even though there are trade offs, this does cost more money. But generally, these will pay for themselves within a normal “mortgage period” of say 15 to 30 years. So where would this money come from?

    Under my Apenny program, whenever any energy price—coal, natural gas or oil– went down more than say 3%, the program would kick in holding the price break to that level and extract part of that as a fee when the price comes back up again. We spend about $1 trillion a year on energy in this country and so collecting say 3% cumulatively every year would be 30 billion dollars and if the rule is it gets invested in products and strategies to save energy or generate renewable energy on a $3-$1 basis, it would generate $100 billion the first year, $200 billion the second year and so forth.

    What to do with the money? I would enact legislation that was a carrot and stick approach with our public energy utilities where they would be required to become performance contractors for a number of things such as:
    1. Financing electric cars where the utility would loan the money to the customer so the base price would be at or below the price for the same quality nonelectric car but the payments might be slightly longer with the savings from the equivalent of 100 miles per gallon, offsetting the extra cost. This way of course the utility would benefit by selling more electricity but the caveat would be that they need to find ways to cut the customer’s energy use in other ways as follows: (Incidentally, every family with two cars is a good candidate for one electric car getting the equivalent of 100 MPG)
    2. The utility, acting as a performance contractor, at no charge to the customer would install a smart electric meter, increased attic insulation, install R8 Windows replacing existing R2 windows, install R10 exposed foundation or basement insulation, a condensing furnace or boiler operating at 95% efficiency, a high-performance air conditioning unit (some extra cost to owner) and replace all incandescent light bulbs with LED or compact fluorescent depending upon the hours of use. This could cut the typical residences and auto energy use by two thirds or more.
    3. Then if exposure and shading are adequate, the utility at no cost to the owner would install solar panels bringing the total energy use close to zero for appropriate residences.
    4. The same approach in general could apply to commercial and civic buildings. Buildings use 40% of our total energy; so over a period of 16 years there would be a substantial reduction in energy use and appropriate installation of some renewable energy like solar panels.
    5. Figuring about a one third subsidy from Apenny, the utility could finance these improvements over a 15 to 30 year period and still make money and increase their electric use by electric fuel for electric cars. The legislation would need to be crafted in a carrot and stick fashion that the utility would make money, but be required to do these things.
    6. The utility would also be required and subsidized to construct their portion of the super grid and the associated electric storage, like pumped water storage etc., required for our future energy grid associated with renewable energy.
    7. The utility would also be subsidized on an up to one third basis if needed to build large-scale renewable energy wind farms and bio generating facilities as well as promoting distributed generation and cogeneration especially for larger commercial and institutional clients.
    8. The performance contractor approach would be much more cost-effective than the present NYSERDA approach of subsidizing individual contractors with high overhead and high profit expectations trying to sell individual projects.

    Present incentives for conservation and conversion to renewable energy will never meet the necessary goals on time at the rate they are going to prevent catastrophic global warming as you can see from the chart above. We absolutely need a strongly proactive politically acceptable system like this in order to reach this necessary and noble goal. Undoubtedly there are many details to work out, but I think you’ll find this is a formula that will not only work, but also be politically acceptable.

    And, oh, I forgot to mention, it would create millions of jobs, put downward pressure on energy prices and by full employment, generate more tax dollars. A recipe for success.

    David C. Ashley

  2. jim lowe
    lecanto.fl.
    July 27, 2013, 1:18 am

    can anyone help me share a couple energy ideas that are mostly passive?I have a few ideas but don’t know how to present them or to whom.

  3. Brian Levy B.Sc.
    Stourport-on-Severn U.K.
    May 23, 2013, 6:38 am

    FRACKING IN NORTH DAKOTA

    In this case it is necessary for the federal government to modify normal commercial practice:
    1. Limit the rate of extraction to conserve supplies.
    2. Develop one square area at a time, and put in all pipework before you start.
    3. Compensate land owners.
    4. Pipe away all methane gas.
    5. Build one power station in North Dakota that burns crude oil. Capture all pollution and carbon dioxide output.
    6. Pipe water from the Missori river for fracking, and then pipe contaminated water to the power station, where waste heat would be used to distil it.

    Nationally introduce policies that would:
    1. Move rapidly to a situation where all private automobiles and small vans are electric. Do this by the Tax system. Oil is only expensive at present because it is being over used.
    2. Invest in the railway network as an alternative to airline transport, and long distance freight transport by road. If the private driver wants to travel interstate, he could then put his small electric vehicle on a train transporter. This would be far better than airline travel, or the tedium of long distance interstate driving.
    3. Introduce oil saving measures such as reusable plastic drinks containers.
    4. At the moment there is no official recognition of the problem of global warming, so the average citizen thinks there is no need to take any action. Explain in an unemotional way the situation we are now in and ask everyone to economize.

    The U.S.A. must take the lead in dealing with the problem of global warming. What the U.S.A. does, other countries will follow.

  4. Sarah Johns
    Tennessee
    April 4, 2013, 12:06 pm

    Just like Nuclear Power, there is NO “Safe” way of Fracking. OR of these Nasty Pipelines that spew Toxic Oil all over the Earth!
    We have UNLIMITED amounts of Wind, Sun and Ocean for our electric needs.. Why is the USA SO far behind almost every CIVILIZED country in Green & Sustainable Energy?? $$$ That’s why, Big Oil OWNS the Govt. as do Corporations & until this changes we are headed for an Ecological Disaster, the likes of which we have never seen.
    The “Green” Energy ( solar, wind, Hydro) ALL will make a LOT of JOBS! In this Jobless society it is only COMMON sense to go Green, stop these Pipelines, Fracking & Nuclear reactors! ( of which there is NO safe way to produce energy) because of the problem of Spent Rods.. Which are Dumped in Utah & Nevada.. Further contaminating the Aquifers and Lands! The USA is So FAR behind Europe in Green Energy Production, it makes Americans look like Cavemen!
    The Politicians MUST get off their behinds & stop taking Bribes from Lobbyists and GO GREEN NOW! Vote NO on the Keystone Pipeline!! Stop Uranium mining in North Dakota ( Canoco) a Canadian company, that mines the yellow ore, leaves OPEN Pits, which ground water gets into, thus into the Ogallala/ Missouri Aquifer and causes all kinds of Cancer, especially among the Native People Living on the South Dakota Reservations. ( which , of COURSE, is totally IGNORED)!! National Geo needs to do a special on that, to go along with August 2012 Issue of National Geographic Magazines Feature story, “A Nation Reborn, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse”. Thank You. ps. Wind/ Solar would also , ( If Located in South Dakota, On the Reservations) Give the Lakota ( Sioux) People WORK!! JOBS!! Which they so DESPERATELY Need! Thank You!!

  5. Thomas M. Collins
    Shreveport, Louisiana
    April 23, 2011, 11:22 pm

    I suggest an internet search on the geothermal heat pump as an option for the heating and cooling of buildings. The failure to achieve widespread adoption is a significant example of the influence of the carbon based fuels industry. The fact that this technology requires no on site combustion for heating of both the air and water would have a heavy impact on the use of both coal and natural gas. When your combine this with the fact that it takes less energy to heat and cool using a water based process than air, you see why the energy industries have discouraged the use of this technology..

  6. Ronan Kerouedan, CEO Carbon Hub
    London + Paris
    December 16, 2010, 11:44 am

    “The UK is one of the best countries in the world to be in terms of market growth for companies selling software and consultancy services addressing environmental performance management issues. This is partly thanks to the UK Government taking climate change more seriously than many other developed countries, and implementing regulations such as the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme. Businesses and organisations are being told that climate change issues and rising energy costs are something they will have to increasingly factor into their concerns and running costs; these issues will not be ignored.

    The opportunity for IT to contribute to the measuring and reporting of carbon emissions was quickly picked up on, and in the years between 2005 and 2010, there has been a huge growth in companies offering these services. But, as many business leaders and CEOs considering the implications of environmental policies to their businesses have noticed, becoming energy efficient is not a purely mechanical process; behavioural change, and a change in culture–of the company, and of society at large–are necessary if the efforts of companies are to bear any fruit.

    Carbon Hub completely understand this. Indeed, using technologies that are interactive and collaborative and that engage stakeholders is exactly what we do. Our belief is that greater efficiency means greater savings, and communication is a crucial facilitator in achieving both of these. Thus we not only provide the software for organisations and businesses to set up an automated tracking system for their energy use, but also an internet platform through which communities can exchange ideas on best practice, read up on the newest scientific and regulatory developments, ask our team of experts questions, and compare their energy management performance. If energy efficiency is to be an inevitable part of our future, why not make it a common effort that’s as easy and as fun as possible?

    Another thing to keep in mind is that this market is evolving very quickly; to keep pace with demand, Carbon Hub’s next move is to expand beyond carbon footprinting to measuring all CSR and environmental impacts. It’s very exciting to see our clients wanting to go above and beyond what regulations presently require. It shows that attitudes towards climate change are moving towards a more proactive stance, people are saying: this is not doomsday, it about risk management and reducing costs–we can do this!”

    –Ronan Kerouedan, CEO Carbon Hub